Saturday, January 30, 2016

Beating Heart

There are not many of us who have had the privilege of never having our heart broken. Unless we are made of stone, we have loved. And we have lost.

I have loved. I remember my first crush. I liked him from fifth grade into sixth. He made me laugh, we talked a lot, he gave me a valentine that said "You're the Beast." True, it had a picture of Wolverine on it, and he gave out his X-Men themed valentines to everyone else in the class as well. But it was my first taste of being regarded by someone. In sixth grade, I was walking home with him when I asked him if he would go to the winter dance with me. He said yes. Suddenly, it felt like a giant heart encircled us as we walked...until my dad sidled up next to us, picking me up in his Firebird. So that sensation ended abruptly, but I swore the cheesy love song playing on my dad's stereo, tuned to Radio Disney, was about me, about us.

I talked to my crush at the dance. He had gone, at least. But I just sat across from him at the table where he sat with his friends. Until one of his pals made a joke about breasts. Then I left, to go dance with my friends, while he stayed there. He didn't dance in general, anyway.

Since then, I have had feelings for a variety of boys...and then, men. In retrospect, the feelings tend to seem silly, foolish, even. You had nothing in common with that boy. That boy looked right past you like you weren't even there. That boy was in a different orbit. That man was too mature for you. He was uncomfortable around you. That guy, he didn't like you as much as you liked him. He didn't want to even get to know you. How could you let yourself fall so deeply, deeply in admiration?

If something is not meant to be, then it isn't meant to be. But what if the feelings, the experience, the risk of liking or loving someone was meant to be? What if it wasn't a mistake, though it wasn't exactly reciprocated? Were those feelings pointless? Did they not teach you anything? I think, perhaps, that the phenomenon of seeing something in someone else that you deeply admire, and adore, is worth it. It is not a bad thing to discover the good in another person, even if you may get a bit wrapped up in it.

My heart has been broken in a dozen different ways. Broken in romance, yes, but also broken by friends, by family, by myself. Pain is everywhere. We can be hurt by each relationship that suffers, that ends. Emotional distress lurks around every corner. This is the reason people devise ways of withdrawing. Life hurts. People hurt you, and you hurt yourself by loving, by caring. By putting your heart in someone else's hands, you are taking a huge risk. Even if you never let them know you care, you can be crushed. They never notice you. Or, if you do get the courage, they reject you.

This post is not meant to be depressing. It is meant to be honest. Heartbreak in inevitable in life. The worst of it, I suppose I do not know. I have never lost a spouse, for instance. And as selfish as I feel saying this, I hope I never need to write that post. God gives us certain pains, and I do not think it is wrong to pray to be protected from others. But everyone, in some way, experiences the disappointment of being shrugged off. Of being forgotten.

This universal experience should unite us, as humans, as creatures who love. The feeling of being rejected often makes us feel isolated and alone. But it should remind us that we all hurt. We all feel pain. I have been rejected by many people, specifically after my manic episodes. Somehow, I learned to cut my losses. I felt like s***, yes. But I had felt worse, somehow, when I was depressed, so I knew that I was not at my lowest. What was worse was not that these people rejected me after mania. It was worse that these people did nothing for me during depression. It wasn't their responsibility, I guess, to see how bad I felt. It wasn't something that I was capable of communicating to them.

In a way, each feeling of pain is preparing us for two things. First, for future instances of even greater pain. And second, for empathizing with others, the people we see every day. My pain allows me to understand your pain. God gives us favor when he gives us pain. It lets us see the complexities in life. It helps us strive for justice and pray for peace. Pain is information. This is true in a biological sense as well as a spiritual. Pain tells us that something is not right.

I know I will experience more pain in life. I am not at all looking forward to feeling terribly. Yet, I know without a doubt, that this is a part of being human, of being alive. I know people will reject me. I know I will not get along with everyone. And I know I will not find love as easily as I would like.

The one thing, though, I want end with is this: I can appreciate my life so much more because I know how bad it can get. I know my heart will break many more times before I die. But at least, I have a heart. My own beating heart tells me that it is worth it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Learning to Lose

It's hard enough to lose something, or someone, when you leave. It's even harder to realize you are losing it, or them, before you've even moved an inch.

There is loss every day. I am given each new day to cherish what is already in my hands, but I am losing it. All of it. The worst is to hold the expectation of something great in your hands but then, painfully, to come to see that maybe the only thing you really had was the expectation. It was like a tree that you planted, but bore little fruit. Sure, the shade is something. But where is that fruit that you dreamed of?

I have grown so much since coming to Raleigh. I started my first two (and a half) jobs ever. I've reconnected with a lot of people, and met even more. I have multiple families over here, at work and at home. I feel like I have succeeded in many ways. But even with success comes struggle.

I've written about this before, but I think I can shed some new light on that thing called "favor." A lot of people are suspicious of it, thinking that all it means is a truckload of blessings or something. Good things have happened to me, yes. But the true significance of favor does not come with the good stuff. It comes with the bad.

If God breaks you, if he puts things in your life that try you and grieve you, if he leaves you with nothing, that is favor. Because, if you have the eyes to see it all in that way, as God being the Author of your story, no matter what happens, then you have an unshakable belief in his love for you and his presence with you. If you don't need to tell the world, "Look at all that has happened to me!!!" because you know God gets it forwards and backwards, that is favor. If God has revealed himself to you in a way that is so real that it no longer bothers you (as much) that the world can be so fake, that is favor. If at the end of the day, a day filled with difficult people and unexpected grief and harrowing loss, though seemingly ordinary to others, at the end of that day, if you are able to trust God that this is his Story and you carry on, then that, yes, is favor.

The loss I feel now is not as biting as I've felt it in the past. I'm not quite hollow but not quite overflowing. I'm not numb but I've not writhing. The person I used to be was still loved by God, and understood, and sought after. But the person I am now is so much more, well, me, so much more able to handle the pain (I think) of not only leaving everything in the summer but letting go of it every day beforehand, and even though I sort of hate this place called "here"  I feel all right. I feel like I am becoming closer to maybe understanding the big picture a little better. I don't want to pull away. I don't want to say goodbye yet. 

God, there is so much I thought I had. But you are teaching me to lose.

To donate to my time in Romania, beginning in August, please click here.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sinner Like Me

It's been a theme for me: being a Christian in a way that honors God and speaks to others. Today I've been thinking once again about all those who I love who do not know Jesus. These friendships happened naturally. They are based on mutual respect and, yes, love. But I still feel the way my heart breaks to know that they have still said "no."

I did not become friends with them in order to bring them to Jesus. Honestly, and maybe to my detriment, I was attracted to them because of who they are. But then again, no. Not to my detriment. Just like "missionary dating" is deceptive, "missionary friendship" is also. It's deceptive because I'm telling them who they should be before I learn who they are. Love people for who they are. It's what Jesus has always done. I don't think Jesus is blind to our faults. I think it's called grace.

I have really needed some worship lately. I've been missing PIHOP, the Pasadena International House of Prayer that features continuous live worship. Here's a secret about me: when I'm worshiping, like really worshiping and praying and listening to God, I cry. I weep, sometimes. God will separate me from all that is around me, from the sweet child jumping around on the chair in front of me, from all the other people, and speak to me in a way that rings true to what I have been experiencing. It's like when I hear God, the strongest thing I sense is that he has heard me. That all I have been trying to pray about, that all I have been unable to put into words has been received completely. The sobs come out with relief.

Tonight was our church's worship night. I was with some friends and, yes, in front of me was a very excited little girl. I was unsure of what to expect, and tried to just not expect too much. Sometimes it's best to not make assumptions about new worship experiences. It distracts from coming to God with a humbled heart. I didn't know if I'd feel comfortable enough to really get in touch with what God was saying to me, but I prayed that he would speak, and I would hear him.

Jesus is so good to me. Yes, I cried. It's like all I have been wrestling with, like how I feel bad leaving my friends to go to Romania, how I haven't led any of my close friends to Christ, how I don't know what else to do, it was like all of this was laid out and God said, "Yes, I know."

I thought of how I learned at Biola that the more we witness to a person, the worse they will have it in hell unless they become a Christian. Like they're damned even more with each truth they learn and reject.

Am I causing my friends to suffer even more? Am I the problem and not part of the solution? I cried at the unfairness of this. I asked God if he would mourn over all the people who will be in hell. How can God forget them? There are many things I don't understand. This blog post is not one that is going to wrap up completely. But there  is one thing I realized.

Christians who don't think we should be friends with non-Christians miss out on the fact that friendship is a key component of witnessing. Logic only goes so far, which is why apologetics with strangers never gets very far. People forget about love, somehow.

I find that I am a better Christian when I am with non-Christians. I don't conform to what they believe, and actually, I don't expect them to conform to what I believe. I show them my Jesus and pray that they find him in their own way, maybe even in their own time. Mostly, I want to be the person that they know they can turn to when they reach that place of curiosity about who Jesus is.

If any of you are reading this and you're not a Christian, I hope that what is written here leaves you with the sense that Jesus does love you and wants to send people to you who will show you his love. I hope I can be one of those people to you.

To donate to my time sharing Christ with those in Romania, click here.